The very public fight between Apple and the FBI over the last six weeks has not only reinvigorated the broader debate over the “going dark” concern (and the larger, age-old tension between privacy and security) but has also drawn attention to the specific legal question of just how much power current federal law (in the form of the All Writs Act) confers upon judges to compel private persons and companies to take affirmative steps to help the government execute a duly-issued search warrant.
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Magistrate Judge James Orenstein in the Eastern District of New York has ruled that the government's request for assistance from Apple to extract data from a phone operating iOS 7—an older operating system than the one at issue in California—is not permissible under the All Writs Act.
The full opinion is below.
Attorneys from Apple and the Department of Justice spoke yesterday before Judge James Orenstein of the District Court for the Eastern District of New York at a hearing on a high-profile case regarding encryption.
At the request of Judge James Orenstein of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, over the course of last week, Apple filed two briefs and the government filed one regarding the feasibility of Apple's decrypting its own devices. As Francesca Procaccini wrote last week, the case concerns the government's request for an order to compel Apple to decrypt an iPhone under the All Writs Act.
President Obama’s waving the encryption white flag to Apple wasn’t the only big “going dark” news this week—and it’s not the only bad news for law enforcement. The courts continue to struggle with encryption issues, and last week, a New York magistrate dealt the government a blow.